Ronde van Drenthe has returned to its spring spot on the Women's WorldTour after taking place in the fall last year. This year's race is, once again, part of the prestigious Spring Classics, which began at Opening Weekend in Belgium and continued with the first round of the top-tier series at Strade Bianche on March 5 in Italy.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) kicked off her classics campaign winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then finished in second place at Strade Bianche, but she will not be participating in the Ronde van Drenthe round held on March 12, in the Netherlands.
Strade Bianche winner Lotte Kopecky, who is the leader of the Women's WorldTour, will instead be a glaring favourite on the start list with her SD Worx team hoping to capitalise on her early-season success to ride away with another victory. Kopecky now leads the Women's WorldTour series with 400 points ahead of Van Vleuten with 320 points and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio with 260 points.
The one-day race suits the powerful and fast finishers, and there will be plenty of competition for Kopecky. The primarily flat route features a finish circuit that includes the VAM Berg, a climb built over a former waste dump, and the most decisive aspect of the race outside of the cobbles and potential wind and rain.
Dutch rider Adrie Visser was the first winner of the current version of the event back in 2007 and her compatriots have won the race for nine of the next 14 editions to include Chantal Beltman, Loes Gunnewijk, Marianne Vos three times, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Amy Pieters and defending champion Lorena Wiebes. Other former winners include Emma Johansson, Lizzie Deignan, Jolien D'hoore, Amalie Dideriksen and Marta Bastianelli.
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Who to watch
Lorena Wiebes is not only the defending champion at Ronde van Drenthe but she is also just fresh off a win at GP Oetingen. Not that her rivals needed a reminder of what a dangerous opponent the 22-year-old is when it comes down to the sprint. The Team DSM rider had 13 wins last season and on Opening Weekend this season also won the bunch bolt to the line behind Van Vleuten and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Elisa Balsamo started the year with a win to set aside any superstitions about the curse of the rainbow jersey and has also been near the front of the race often enough since to make it impossible to look past her as a contender. She hasn't lined up at this event since 2019, but has more than once proved that this is the type of terrain she excels on, not least of all at the World Championships. The fourth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Opening Weekend, too, was a good sign. Also working in her favour is a powerful team, with the 24 year old world champion having 2017 winner Amalie Dideriksen in her corner, plus the strength of Ellen van Dijk and the sprint savvy of Chloe Hosking.
Marta Bastianelli has delivered an impressive season start for the new UAE Team ADQ, having already clocked up three wins including victory at Omloop van het Hageland. It was a win taken from a break, but one with some powerful sprint speed as the Italian rider came over the line ahead of Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar) and Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM). There is also no question it's a race that suits as Bastianelli has finished in the top 5 three times, taking victory in 2019.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon may not have had much time to settle into the European peloton but its hard not to throw her name in the hat, given she started her first European race day as a professional rider with BikeExchange-Jayco by taking second place on the opening stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She can sprint and hang in there on those punchy climbs and her 12th place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was a pretty impressive early showing on the cobbles. She may be an outside chance for the podium at this point, but given her early progression it will be no surprise if in the years to come the 23-year-old Australian draws the favourite tag.
Women's WorldTour leader Lotte Kopecky is bound to be one of those feared riders in the bunch who won't be able to move without someone jumping on her wheel after Strade Bianche. It's not just that the new recruit to SD Worx won the scenic Italian race, but what made the victory even more impressive was the way she did it. Even after jumping on multiple attacks she had the ability to hold the wheel of Van Vleuten on the vicious climb into Siena. After a showing like that on terrain that was her opponents forte, not hers, there is no doubt that she has the form to enter a race with terrain that suits her as well as Ronde van Drenthe as the favourite.
There are plenty of other riders beyond those already mentioned that are in with a chance for the podium, not least of all a number of Kopecky's teammates. They include Elena Cecchini, who last year placed second, Marlen Reusser and 22-year-old Lonneke Uneken who just won a stage at the Bloeizone Fryslan Tour and came 11th at Omloop van het Hageland. Then there is FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope's Grace Brown who showed that she is hitting peak form after playing a strong supporting role at Strade Bianche, plus the team also has Clara Copponi who gathered up a fifth and sixth place finish on Opening Weekend. Arlenis Sierra will also be making her season and Movistar debut at the race. Finally, its hard to look past last year's fourth-placed rider Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), especially after she delivered a strong sixth at Strade Bianche and the team has also now got last year's Australian champion Sarah Roy on board if it comes down to a sprint.
The women's peloton will compete along a 155-kilometre course between Assen and Hoogeveen.
After beginning in Assen, the capital of Drenthe, the race winds its way south-east through Gieten, Borger, and then move south-west through Odoorn, for about 80km until reaching the local circuits in Hoogeveen..
The peloton will tackle a series of four loops, which includes 10 cobbled sectors, and the steep ascent of the VAM Berg.
The peloton will climb the Vam Berg for the first time at the 87km mark, and then again at 101km, 115km and the final pass is at 142km, leaving a 13km run to the finish line in Hoogeveen.
- Team DSM
- Canyon-SRAM Racing
- FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
- Human Powered Health
- Liv Racing Xstra
- Movistar Team
- Team BikeExchange - Jayco
- Team Jumbo-Visma
- Team SD Worx
- Trek - Segafredo
- UAE Team ADQ
- Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
- Andy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch
- Bizkaia Durango
- Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
- GT Krush Tunap Pro Cycling
- NXTG by Experza
- Parkhotel Valkenburg
- Valcar - Travel & Service
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.
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